So I dropped in to Cafe Intermezzo near Perimeter Mall to get a little editing in on SPECTRAL IRON and realized that THIS was where I and my wife went for our first date, almost exactly twenty years ago! (I think we were sitting just out of view, not far from the chair you can see at the left of frame.)
I wasn't taking pictures as regularly then and selfies certainly weren't a thing, so the closest pictures I have of Sandi were from a photo shoot we did almost a year later when she needed reference images for some paintings she was doing. Many of those are just Sandi striking odd poses that corresponded to something that she needed to draw, but I think the one above turned out quite well.
Cafe Intermezzo will always hold a place in my heart as it's one of my best late-night thinking and writing places, but the one at Perimeter has an even more special place, as it's where Sandi and I, who had met at the Chamber a few weeks before, shared our first date and our second kiss.
Well, it's that time of year again ... 65,000 of my closest friends have gotten together in five hotels and two convention halls in Atlanta to celebrate all things science fiction!
My schedule is below. I worked right up to the start of the con, so am just now posting this two days later, but for the benefit of the time travelers in my audience, I'll include the first two panels:
8:30pm - Start Now, Research! - Hyatt Embassy EF How much research is enough? How much is too much? When do you stop doing research and start writing?
7:00pm - The People Who Live in Your Book - Hyatt Embassy EF Characters rise off the page and become people--if they're well-crafted. Discover ways to make this happen in your fiction.
10:00pm - Stories Needed: Get Yourself Invited into an Anthology - Hyatt Embassy EF There's an anthology being published that might just work for a story you have in mind. Or, when you hear about an anthology and KNOW you have a story for it, what do you do? Get some professional help from our pros.
10:00am - Writing About Star Trek - Hilton Galleria 2-3 There are thousands of worlds within Star Trek, and thousands of topics to talk about. Where do we start? Join a panel of published writers to discuss what's worth discussing in Trek books, articles and more
1:00pm - Where Do You Get Your Ideas? - Hyatt Embassy EF This is a question that every writer gets asked by everyone they know. What is the answer to that question?
2:30pm - Predicting the Future - Hyatt Embassy EF Where in the world is fiction headed? Do the old tropes still work? What's fresh and new for the future?
At each panel, I'll be giving away signed copies of the writing inspiration book Your Writing Matters by my friend Keiko O'Leary. This is the latest release from Thinking Ink Press, and we're very proud of it! No matter where you are on your writing journey, I think this book can probably help you, so come on by!
So Dragon Con has come and gone again. I can't tell you how great it was to see my friends again, to be in that environment again, to get a fresh supply of genre t-shirts again. Last year, while the zombie apocalypse was shambling past, we hunkered down and met virtually, which was actually quite nice - one of my friends shared a picture of the Westin bar where a lot of writers used to meet, and we used it as a backdrop for our our Zoom calls:
That year (2020), I was having so much fun in the mentoring sessions I never checked out the other content. But this year (well, now, 2021), despite the raging zombie apocalypse being worse than ever (except for the presence of the vaccine) I didn't check out any online content in favor of real-world experiences.
P.S. Almost a year later (now 2022, with Dragon Con coming up in 3 months), I just noticed this post never went up. Sigh. I wonder what else I was going to say.
the amount of work needed to put up that one-word, one-image blogpost was entirely out of proportion to the amount of benefit involved. I have fixed site errors with fewer hoops than it took to publish something via the WordPress app, and the fix was actually uninstalling and reinstalling the app, which apparently had gotten into some kind of cruftly state in which it could no longer upload posts.
To be clear, I'm not picking on WordPress here. But I have a Ph.D in Artificial Intelligence and used to work on the front end of Google search. If I can't post a one-word, one-image post on the world's most popular blogging platform using their own easy-to-use official phone app, how are people who have not spent thirty-plus years in the industry supposed to get any work done?
This experience I just had - almost the simplest possible post not uploading after a few minutes - in another industry would be like ... like .. like picking up a hammer and nailing one nail into a piece of wood, only to find the nails popping out a minute later and flying across the room. You ask your carpenter buddy, "what gives," and they say, "Oh, that. You've got hammer voodoo going on there. Just take the hammer back to Home Depot, return it, and buy a new one. Then the nail will go in just fine."
You know what? I'm going to learn from this.
I will endeavor to make the robots less irritating when something goes wrong.
P.S. AAAA! And this post didn't publish because the interface threw up an extra dialog box after I tried to publish, asking, "Are you sure?" I'm sure I didn't need you throwing up that extra dialog box AFTER I left the page so I spent time looking for it on the home page when it hadn't actually published at all. Aaaa!
Well, after a long hard month and many ups and downs, I have successfully completed Camp Nanowrimo, one of the three yearly National Novel Writing Month challenges to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month - and this is my 32nd time claiming viiictory!
This was one of the more challenging Nanos for me, as April is our quarterly planning month, and on top of that we decided to switch managers within our team and to switch to semester planning in our org. So that led to a dip in the beginning, where it was hard for me to get my groove.
The blood on the deck continued almost to the end of Camp Nano. This month's project was my third go at JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE FLYING GARDENS OF VENUS, and I found it particularly difficult to get momentum as the story is more complicated than normal, with a new protagonist Puck taking center stage in addition to Jeremiah. You can see the dip compared to past Nanos:
I felt like I was struggling and stumbling with the story, writing and rewriting scenes, trying out different alternates (I count these as words written; editing can come later). However, as I rolled into the end of the month, these struggles started to pay off, as I understood better what was up with Puck, why so many weird things happened around her, and what role they played in the story.
Over the years of doing Nano, I've reached this particular point of the enterprise many times - a point which I sometimes call "going off the rails". This is the point where the story seems to gel, and I think it happens when I go from exploring the logical consequences of a set of characters in a situation - which is where I start almost all of my writing - to creatively injecting things into the story that could not be predicted from its beginnings. These still need to be grounded in the plot and consistent with the characters, but there's a difference between the things you typically expect to happen in a scenario and truly creative innovations which cannot be predicted from the setting alone - what the Mythcreants writing team calls Novelty in their ANTS framework (Attachment, Novelty, Tension and Satisfaction).
Over almost 20 years, I've had this creative spark, this "going off the rails" many, many times, and stories always seem better for it. I have tackled 16 Nanowrimos so far out of 34 monthly challenges (also counting Camp Nano and Script Frenzy) and have successfully completed it 32 times.
Each time for me, it's facing those middling slumps, facing the places where I've fallen out of love with my own story, that ultimately kickstart my creativity into high gear and make me fall in love with my work again.
That happened this time, even though I wanted to give up. I know Nano doesn't work for everyone, so your mileage may vary, but for me, as I've often found in other arenas of my life, you sometimes have to work just a little bit harder than you want to to reach an outcome which is far better than you have any right to expect. That was true with Cinnamon, originally a side character in the first Dakota Frost about whom I have now drafted three novels, and it is turning out to be true here with Puck as well, the Girl Who Could Wish, now turning into a truly interesting twist.
Oh, an excerpt. Let me see if I have some rough draftiness lying around here ...
“It’s an ecosystem,” Puck murmured. “There’s a whole ecosystem in the floatbergs—”
One of the jellyfloats wandered under one of the falls, and screamed, terrifyingly human-like, as it steamed and melted—and then Puck realized what the liquid was: sulfuric acid. This was an upper-atmosphere floatberg, its engineered bacteria designed to harvest sulfuric acid from the air—and as the floatberg disintegrated, the collected sulfuric acid which had not been processed was now spilling out in uncontrolled streams, destroying whatever had inhabited this cavern.
“I’m sorry,” Puck said to her little audience. “I … I think it’s too late.”
One of the bigger parakeys, with a crest, hopped up on her knee.
“Is that a vest?” she said, touching a bit of what looked like cloth. “You … you can’t be intelligent creatures, now can you? How could you start a whole civilization up here? Floatbergs only go back a few hundred years, and they don’t last for more than months, maybe weeks—”
The parakey chieftain, if that’s what it was, cheeped at her.
Puck drew a breath.
“I wish this cave could be saved,” she said carefully. The crowd of parakeys cheeped and beeped, and the chieftain pawed at her and cheeped even louder, like a little screech, and she relented. “Alright, a proper, non-conditional wish this time. I wish this cave would be—”
The bottom dropped out from beneath them.
Poor Puck! She can't seem to cut a break. But at least I know who and what she is now, and how she's related to Jeremiah, and can therefore move forward with this story with confidence.
So a number of sales are running this month featuring stories about Dakota, Jeremiah or Nicole.
First off, Dakota: on February 16-28 of this month, BLOOD ROCK will be back on sale for $0.99 wherever fine eBooks are sold - for example, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. BLOOD ROCK continues the story of Dakota and her weretiger daughter Cinnamon, facing their greatest challenge yet: getting Cinnamon into a good middle school. Oh, and there may also be magic graffiti, deadly fires, cranky werewolves, magical police investigators, and vampire romance. You should check it out.
Second, Jeremiah: the LATER series anthologies are on sale at DriveThruFiction through the 11th. Each features pairs of stories set in Jeremiah Willstone's time at Liberation Academy. We're adapting these for audio, so I feel this is a good way to get into this universe early!
The DriveThruFiction sales ends February 11, so strike while the iron's hot!
P.S. Also, while I'm under the hood, let me point out that the new WordPress editor continues not just to suck, but to get worse over time, as it was markedly harder to write a blog post on the Library of Dresan than the Jeremiah Willstone and Dakota Frost websites, both on older versions of WordPress. It's harder to edit text, insert links, navigate texts, add lists, or add tags, and the tags no longer show the relative category sizes. "Modern looking" is not a substitute for usability, and never will be. End of rant.
Snow in South Carolina! Or, as my friends in Boulder call it, Tuesday. It usually snows once or twice each year in Greenville, but we only get one of these big dumps of powder every 3-5 years or so.
In the moonlight, the neighbor's house looked as pretty as a Thomas Kinkade. Now, I've seen snow like this before, I've seen it before, and it's familiar to my wife, who works a lot in New York. But as for Loki ...
Recall to memory the Sixth of January, Riot, insurrection and plot For no justification should the January Insurrection Ever be forgot
A little over one year ago today, lame-duck President Donald Trump directed an unruly band of his followers to "fight like hell" to overturn the election of Joe Biden, in the hope of disenfranchising me and the 81 million other Americans who voted to bring to an end Trump's dyscivic reign.
"Dyscivic" means "antagonistic to civilization." It's a word coined by alt-right pundit Vox Day to disparage the aspirations of "social justice warriors" like myself. I am a writer, and I hereby confiscate "dyscivic" and repurpose it to mean "antagonistic to the civic structures of our society" - which Donald Trump was.
Of my good friends who voted for Donald Trump, at least two voted for him precisely because they expected he would be disruptive to our existing system. One specifically said, "I voted for Donald Trump because I hoped he would blow up the Republican Party, and I'm waiting for the Democrats to go next."
Keep waiting. Even though progressives like AOC and moderates like myself don't always get along, we recognize that we share the same end goals, that our principles are compatible, and they're worth fighting for together, even if we might disagree on methods.
I don't get the same sense from my most right-wing friends, who viciously lambast politicians from their own party for not "getting on the Trump train" in every possible respect - even when those politicians have multi-decade records voting for precisely the positions my friends loudly advocate for.
Reliance on trust is toxic to any organization. It encourages dependence on personal relationships - even friendships - developed over years or decades, and makes the organization resistant to new information delivered by new people. When that trust is in leadership, it becomes loyalty ... which is deeply dyscivic.
The purpose of government is to put the use of force under rational control. To prevent one man from using that force to execute their own personal will, we create civic structures that corral the use of power. We loan power, not grant it; and when you loan power to someone, you watch them.
Over four years, we watched Donald Trump demand loyalty on an unprecedented scale in American politics - from his followers, from fellow politicians, from the machinery of government. He turned on his appointees when their understanding of their civic duties conflicted with his own petty desires.
And when the American people had had enough - when even some of my Trumpian friends switched parties because they could not abide what he was doing to our political system - Trump spat on those of us who dared to vote against him, and then tried to pretend to his followers that we did not exist.
Well, sir, our voices were heard. And we won't be silent. We know that you and your followers are going to try again - I remember watching your suppoprters meeting in the dark in the months leading up to the insurrection (holding 10pm rallies in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store). We'll be watching.
For I'm not the only one. Here's a few quotes from my fellow Americans around the web:
We all know how that turned out. All but seven Republican Senators — forty-three of fifty members in the upper chamber — protected him and embraced his Big Lie. In the year since, they have doubled down on it, and they have not stopped insisting that we did not see what we saw one year ago today with our own eyes.
And yet, after perhaps 48 hours of unrehearsed shock, the Republican party rallied around this traitor to the republic and the constitution, and tried to rebrand an actual coup attempt into overexuberant tourism.
And not about January 6th, but important all the same:
Why is this important? Because as we look ahead into another year at the beginning of a new decade of a constantly changing world, America needs to take a hard look at herself and ask whether we are remembering or forgetting the right things. This is not only vital to our collective consciousness as to who we are as a nation, but to the success of future military operations.
I assert that remembering the right things isn't just vital to our success in military endeavors, but to each of us personally, in the aggregate, as a nation, and as a civilization. If we don't remember the true story - good and bad and ugly - then those who make up stories for their own convenience will rule the day.